Boston University’s ice hockey team isn’t ranked No. 1 in Hockey East, let alone the nation. The Terriers are not even in the top 10, as they currently sit in the 11th spot in the national rankings.
Two of BU’s Hockey East opponents, No. 2 Merrimack and Boston College (tied for fourth) are. But it means little to a team that took a four-game winning streak into December and knocked down BC along the way. The Terriers did fall to Merrimack, but they seem to have corrected their biggest fault of the season since then — inconsistent play.
It’s BU’s improvement more than anything that makes it deserving of praise, although Merrimack and BC sport better records. This Terrier team, as it proved with a couple wins against BC, isn’t the same one that dragged its unmotivated self into the Tsongas Center for their worst loss since 1999.
Statistically, the Terriers aren’t the nation’s gold stars — the only two categories BU leads the nation in are penalty minutes (21.08 per game) and short-handed goals (six). But they’re improving. BU’s defense now ranks 30th in the country, allowing 2.85 goals per game. While that statistic may make you cringe, it’s greatly improved. Even goalkeeper Kieran Millan‘s goals-against average has dropped. At one point it was above 3.00, but now sits at 2.69.
The Terriers have their strengths, such as their seventh-ranked offense. The Terriers score 3.55 goals per game, getting points from almost all of their players, whether it be scoring leader Matt Nieto or fourth-liner Wade Megan.
The statistics won’t make you choke on a drink, but the Terriers just won back-to-back games at Conte Forum for the first time since 1993-94. The combined score of of the two good efforts was 10-3, and the Terriers haven’t played badly since that loss to UMass-Lowell, outscoring opponents 18-8.
By taking down BC, the Terriers gained an edge over the Eagles. But BU lost to Merrimack, so what makes the Terriers better than the Warriors?
Despite the loss, BU dominated the game for roughly 50 minutes. It was also after UMass-Lowell destroyed the Terriers and everyone, from BU head coach Jack Parker to assistant captain Justin Courtnall, was very, very unhappy. It was a huge question mark: Would the Terriers rebound, or would they lose their second game in a row?
The Terriers not only rebounded, they played their best game of hockey this season. The Terriers should have won, and would have, if it wasn’t for a trademarked late-game meltdown. Still, the Terriers came the closest they had all season to playing a full 60 minutes of hockey, and Parker was far from disappointed with their effort.
Also, the Terriers have had a much tougher schedule than Merrimack so far. The Warriors went undefeated — and earned the nation’s top spot — until a Friday night loss to Providence, but the Terriers were the toughest team the Warriors faced. They still haven’t played BC or UMass-Lowell, two of the other top-five teams in Hockey East.
This isn’t October’s Terriers, and their slow start shouldn’t fool observers into thinking BU can’t contend for Hockey East’s top spot. Their record may still have them a little lower than the conference’s top space, but the Terriers will be a threat in the Hockey East Tournament.
Thumbnail photo via Flickr/seriouslysilly